No other country of the world puts as many of its citizens behind bars as the United States of America, especially minors. There are diverse reasons for this but other than America’s failed “war on drugs” there is one that stands out: The privatisation of prisons. Privatising any part of public service is usually a terrible idea but trying to make a business out of something like prisons is such an obviously fucked up plan that even America’s closest allies are disgusted by it.
And since bad ideas almost always have bad consequences the USA end up with cases like a bill in Michigan that guarantees private prisons a occupancy rate of 90% because less prisoners would be a drag on profits. Or the judges in Pennsylvania who were earning millions of dollars for jailing kids for minor offenses. And things like this are going on to this day, often with the help of American schools where cops are already part of the daily routine. For example in Mississippi were a county is running aschool-to-prison pipeline:
An investigation launched last December revealed that “the agencies have helped to operate a school-to-prison pipeline whereby children arrested in local schools become entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the U.S. Constitution. The department’s findings show that children in Lauderdale County have been routinely and repeatedly incarcerated for allegedly committing school disciplinary infractions and are punished disproportionately, without constitutionally required procedural safeguards. Children have also been arrested at school for offenses as minor as defiance.
And to make this clear, “defiance” can be anything, even laughable offenses like dress code violations. And hardly surprising, it’s mostly queer kids and those who happen to be anything but white who end up in this horrible system. And once they’re in, it’s almost impossible to get out:
In 2009 the Southern Poverty Law Center brought a class-action lawsuit against the Lauderdale County Juvenile Detention Facility, accusing it of keeping youths “crammed into small, filthy cells and tormented with the arbitrary use of Mace as a punishment for even the most minor infractions — such as ‘talking too much’ or failing to sit in the ‘back of their cells.’”
Photos by Steve Liss for No Place for Kids